This Week's Focus -  "One Master, One Purpose"  
    Click Link for Luke 16:1-13

Dear Friends,

In case you haven’t been paying attention, Jesus wants us to value what he values. He wants our priorities to be his priorities. He wants our purpose to be his purpose. And in this gospel he takes a pretty radical approach to making that point. This gospel is called: “The Parable of the Dishonest Steward.” And if you’re fond of footnotes, paradoxes and surprise endings… this is the gospel for you.

Does Jesus really want us to imitate the steward by playing fast and loose with the boss’ receivables? Is he really telling us that we can cook the books to get out of a jam? The answer is… actually: No… metaphorically: Yes.

This is the second consecutive week that our gospel protagonist is a flawed character. Last week it was the prodigal son. This week it’s a white collar crook. While the prodigal is willing to move in with the pigs, this guy wants a golden parachute.

Grasping the meaning of this confusing gospel takes an attitude adjustment. Start by understanding that Jesus does not despise the wealth of the world. It is part of God’s creation. But he does have contempt for our fixation with worldly wealth… at the expense of the “true wealth” of heaven… the gift of salvation… the fruits of faith, hope and charity.

The lesson here is that the steward is using current assets in his control to pay forward his future reception among his master’s debtors. There is disagreement among theologians whether the steward is skimming from his master or just discounting his own commissions on future collections. But there is a bigger lesson here than accounting. Jesus is telling us to use the wealth of the world wisely to acquire the wealth of heaven. Our time, our talent and our treasure should not be expended to gobble up the goodies of this life at the expense of the next.

Jesus tells us that as the “children of the light” we can learn from “the children of the world.” The dishonest steward was wise enough to think ahead… to know he had better make provision for the future. Jesus is telling us that we can learn a valuable lesson, even from a crook. Think ahead. Our time here is short. Eternity is forever. Have we confirmed our reservations in the house of the Lord?

And lest we take the wrong lesson from this parable, Jesus warns us to be honest and trustworthy in all things… both the great and the small. And then he delivers the punch line for this gospel… No servant can serve two masters.

Coincidentally, the title of our series of gospel reflections is called: Focus. And that is the first requirement of service. To serve God means to focus on him… to be present, to be attentive, to be responsive. Lip service isn’t going to get it done. Neither are a few distracted scraps of our busy day. We need to put down the smart phone, the five-iron and the remote. We don’t need to throw them away… but we must understand that all the things the world values are potential distractions. They will become our masters if we let them.

Which is why we must know and serve our Master’s priorities… loving him… loving our neighbor… building his kingdom… witnessing his love… reading his word… developing habits of virtue, reflexes of holiness… leaving no room for sin… constantly filling our souls from the fount of his grace… sealing up the avenues of temptation… opening our hearts to the countless opportunities for goodness… giving and forgiving… over and over… again and again.

It’s easy to write that all down, packing it into one paragraph. Living it, packing it into one busy lifetime is a very different story. That’s why we must focus… why we must serve one Master. We are the Master’s masterpiece. He is focused on us. His love is never rationed. His advice is simple, direct and effective: In success or failure, serve the Lord. In confusion or clarity, serve the Lord. In the euphoric energy of youth or the frailty of declining years… serve the Lord.

That is the glory of serving our one Master. Paul tells us: We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.

In serving one Master… our God… the Master of all… ultimately there is no confusion, no disappointment, no failure, no despair. Those are temporary afflictions of the human condition. There is only his love and the great gift of that love… eternal happiness, together forever, with those who know and serve one Master.

God love you!

A Reflection for The Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 18, 2016
©The Reverend David F. Sellery
St. John’s Church, Salisbury, Connecticut

Copyright © 2016 David Sellery, All rights reserved.

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